“It is important for us to brief them about measures we have taken, and plans for the future,” President Mahinda Rajapaksa told the Cabinet at a meeting on Wednesday.
As Daily Mirror newspaper reported; “President Mahinda Rajapaksa has stressed the need to send a delegation to the United States of America ahead of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, to brief the leaders of that country on the measures taken by him to improve the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. The US government has already announced that they will support a motion against Sri Lanka at the next session of the UN Human Rights Commission scheduled for next month. Also, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recently invited her Sri Lankan counterpart to visit the US and counter the allegations made against Sri Lanka.
Governmental sources said that the issue was discussed at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. First, Senior Minister DEW Gunasekera queried about media reports in this regard. The President noted that Sri Lanka should engage with the US ahead of the Human Rights Commission sessions.”
So, whom are they trying to fool this time? The US? No way!!
I would like to bring to your attention abstracts from two US reports; one from a US Human Rights Report, the other from a leaked US diplomatic cable.
The 2006 US Human Rights Report states: “In January five Tamil youths were shot execution-style in a coastal High security zone in Trincomalee heavily controlled by the police Special Task Force (STF) and the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN). Although civil groups and members of the government widely suspected police STF involvement in the incident, a ballistic report indicated that standard-issue STF guns had not killed the individuals, and the case was dropped. Some credible observers believe the STF committed the killings using non-standard issue weapons.”
Now the question is who are those credible observers or “traitors”? As Rajapaksa and his apple polishers say, are they NGO traitors who are working for Dollars to tarnish a Sri Lankan patriotic government?
“Speaking with surprising candor, Rajapaksa explained the GSL’s efforts to prove that members of the Security Task Force (STF) murdered five students in Trincomalee in January: ‘We know the STF did it, but the bullet and gun evidence shows that they did not. They must have separate guns when they want to kill someone. We need forensic experts. We know who did it, but we can’t proceed in prosecuting them.’”
Who is this Rajapkasa? He is none other than the President’s brother/ Chief Advisor/ Minister Basil Rajapaksa!! During an October 4, 2006 courtesy call, Ambassador Blake reminded Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa of US priorities and initiatives in Sri Lanka. The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and recounts details of the meeting the US Ambassador to Colombo had with Basil Rajapaksa. The cable is written by the US Ambassador to Colombo, Robert O. Blake.
Under the subheading “President is Keen on Human Rights” Blake wrote, “Basil told the Ambassador that the President genuinely seeks the help of the Co-chairs, and the US in particular, to improve Sri Lanka’s human rights capability by lending experts, assisting with inquiries, and building up the indigenous Human Rights Commission (HRC). The Ambassador agreed that President Rajapaksa and Development and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe have strong reputations as human rights advocates, but noted the UNHCR lacked credibility.”
“ He said that the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has been sufficiently trained in human rights, but that the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) has been credibly implicated in harassment and human rights violations. ‘We have few complaints in areas of SLA presence, but we have a problem with the SLN,’ Rajapaksa explained. ‘We didn’t expect them to work with civilians and they weren’t trained.” He said the President has prioritized human rights training for the Navy. Rajapaksa added that with a new law requiring that police notify the magistrate before they can detain a suspect for longer than 24 hours, ‘We have minimized harassment by the police.’” Ambassador Blake further wrote.
Placing a comment the Ambassador wrote “The Ambassador’s first meeting with Basil Rajapaksa sparked a candid response from the Presidential Advisor and laid the foundation for a pragmatic relationship with the embassy. Rajapaksa’s frank discussion of the GSL’s human rights struggles with its security forces and request for international assistance in human rights capacity building is welcome.”
After six years of the killing of the five students in Trincomalee, President Rajapaksa is to send a delegation to the US to brief the leaders of that country on the measures taken by him to improve the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. But what are the measures he has taken to bring the killers of the Trinco students to justice?
August 4, 2006, 17 local employees -16 Tamil and one Muslim – of the French non governmental organization (NGO) Action Contre La Faim (ACF) were shot, execution-style in their compound in Muttur. What measures has the Sri Lankan justice system taken to bring the killers to book? These incidents need to be put in context of the impunity of killing innocent civilians that Sri Lanka is being charged with. We have evidence that the President himself was directly involved in pushing for Tissainaygam’s prosecution even though the AG’s department held that the case was weak.
As I wrote last August, I am reminded of my own experience of the then burgeoning signs of absolute impunity that I saw when I met Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2008. I was meeting him as the Convenor of the Free Media Movement. We were not alone. Other members of his then cabinet were present. After a cordial conversation the President rose from his chair, saying, “Have some dinner before you go.”
“One more issue,” I said.
“What?” asked the President.
“Tissainayagam’s issue,” I said.
“Oh that. I want to free Tissainayagam. His wife had sent a message through Mangala Moonesinghe,” said the President with a smile on his face.
“Then why did you summon the Deputy Solicitors General two weeks ago and order them to file action?” I asked.
The President was visibly angered by this. He glanced at Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and SLFP General Secretary, Minister Maithripala Sirisena, and then looked directly at me. Angrily banging his palm on the table, he said, “We can fix cases and we can free people.”
He then came near me and hit my solar plexus with a bunched fist. “You know everything, don’t you?” he asked.
What was the story President Rajapaksa had tried to cover-up? This was it. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had summoned the Deputy Solicitors General from the Attorney General’s Department for a meeting sometime during the third week of August 2008. He was impatient with the Department’s lack of success in securing convictions of ‘suspects’ detained by the Police. One was the case of Mawbima Journalist Parameswary Munusamy. Arrested on suspicion of aiding the LTTE and released for lack of evidence.
The President’s first query was directed to the Deputy Solicitor General in charge of the Tissainayagam case. The DSG said that the grounds for prosecution were poor. The President ordered him to prosecute regardless. The DSG in charge of the ACF case (the gruesome execution-style murders of 17 aid workers with the French organisation Action Contre La Faim in 2006) was asked about the progress. The DSG replied that there were two strong witnesses in Australia. President Rajapaksa’s younger brother Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa who was present then inquired whether people in Australia died in road accidents?
The discussion with the DSGs reveals the measures Rajapaksa has taken to improve the human rights situation! It is the mind-set behind the repression. Soon after the meeting, the following week August 25, 2009, Journalist Tissainayagam, who had been tortured and held for four months since March 7, 2008, against mounting international pressure, was indicted in the Colombo High Court. The Terrorism Investigation Division produced a confession signed by Tissainayagam as evidence against him. Tissainayagam claimed it was dictated to him, and he was pressured to write it. On August 31, 2009, the High Court in Sri Lanka sentenced Tissainayagam to a total of 20 years rigorous imprisonment. On May 3, 2010 the Sri Lankan Government announced that Tissainayagam would be pardoned by President Rajapaksa to mark the 2010 World Press Freedom Day. This is what happened to a case in which “ the grounds for prosecution were poor.”
What happened to the ACF case? On August 4, 2006 at around 4.15 p.m., one Muslim and 16 Tamil ACF aid workers were forced to their knees, begging for their lives, and shot execution-style at point blank range in their office compound in Muttur. In this case, or any premeditated crime of this nature, the State has a responsibility to independently determine the facts of the case and to identify the perpetrators. The Government has not only failed to fulfill its duty, it has obstructed efforts to do so through the Presidential Commission of Inquiry. The government made sure there was no proper witness protection in place. It changed its earlier identification of a 5.56 mm bullet . The Presidential Order to stop video conferencing of testimonies by witnesses who had to flee the country, was another blatant move to suppress the truth.
The Commission of Inquiry ceased with a whimper in mid 2009. According to the Chairman, the culprits in the ACF case were not identified because he ‘ran out of funds’. However, this admission has not prevented the Government from coercing the family members to sign documents stating that they “agree with the findings of the Commission that the deaths were caused by the LTTE. This marked the end of a case where there were “two strong witnesses”. A similar situation prevailed with the Trinco students killing. Security forces attempted to build a case that the students were LTTE members, and told the father of Ragihar Manoharan that his son’s body would not be released unless he signed a statement saying that his son was an LTTE combatant. Dr. Manoharan refused. Dr. Manoharan later received many threats and had to leave the country. That courageous father is still fighting for justice. According Basil Rajapaksa, “STF must have separate guns when they want to kill someone”. Those are the things under the watch of Rajapaksa one has to ponder when authorities say that they want to improve the human rights situation. I wonder what the President’s delegation is going to plead with the US !! After Sarath Fonseka told of the White Flag story to The Sunday Leader, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told the BBC Hard Talk programme that the General was a liar and might be hanged for betraying the country.
So the President’s delegation can say Basil was a liar and might be hanged for betraying the country! Or they can say the King is naked, now Basil is also naked!